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Part II

Edward Cullen, Prince and Dragon.

It is a truth universally acknowledged that a misunderstood, troubled man in possession of a bad temper, mood swings, loneliness, and poor communication skills, must be in want of his true love.

The archetype of the wild-man that is transformed by humanity in the form of a lovely lady is as old as writing itself. The epic poem of Gilgamesh (2150-2000 BCE), which is one of the earliest known written texts, portrays the story of how Enkidu left his wild side and embraced civilization and peace with the help of Shamhat (love priestess). Of course this is not a love story, but it surely represents the first seeds of this everlasting fascination for “bad boys” being changed by a woman into becoming better men.

Edward Cullen is the latest update on the theme of love transforming people for the better.

Now: why SOME women like this idea.

It is in human nature both to want to belong and to feel special. Being the catalyst of change in a man when no other woman has done it before is the ultimate proof of specialness for a lot of people. Women can and do love both a challenge and the joys of hunting, so catching one of those hard-to-get types is also very endearing (although obviously rare in real life). Add to that the fact that Edward is also a virgin by choice, which turns you into the ultimate sex goddess. I think for men this would be the equivalent of giving a lady her first orgasm when she never had one with previous lovers.

Edward is already on his way to redemption when this shy schoolgirl enters his life, bringing with her the ultimate test to his goodness: the alluring scent of her blood, and a challenge -- his inability to read her thoughts.
Edward, like Mr. Darcy or Beast, undergoes a big transformation -- through Bella he rediscovers his true humanity, comes to understand what love really is, and has a chance at happiness.

In the end, Bella saves him from what he considers a "damned" existence by giving him a taste of the life he would have likely followed if death and vampirism hadn't happened to him.

But Edward has two other masks, or roles to play, in this tale. He is both the Princess (and no, not that kind of princess) and The Dragon.

In classic tales, the hero finds true love in the hands of the princess he rescues, but also wins everything that comes with her: a kingdom, power, richness, and immortality. The princess also symbolizes a reward.
Bella’s many acts of selflessness -- including placing her mother’s happiness over her own, and her brave ability to actually see beyond the Dragon skin and see the hero in him, is the first step to winning her own reward and everything that comes with it.

Now, since Edward is also The Dragon (embodied by his vampire nature), he is constantly struggling with himself to keep Bella safe and to allow his transformation. During the story, his struggles manifest in a way that allows many uncomfortable moments that might hurt some readers' modern sensitivities, especially if they are expecting a flawless character or a modern code of behavior. Some scenes may be particularly offensive to some readers when the first words that describe the character in the voice of the narrator (and the way many of his fans see him) is: "perfect."

Edward is considered the perfect Prince Charming/boyfriend/husband by many women not because he lacks flaws (as we know, he has many), but he lacks the flaws that are currently the most frustrating in relationships with men for many modern women of various ages.

Edward is not afraid to either love or commit; in fact he is immediately ready to commit to Bella upon knowing she loved him too. Edward doesn’t sit back with the knowledge of Bella’s love and then neglect their relationship -- au contraire, he is always struggling to improve their love life and look for better ways to woo Bella. In a world where books like “He's Just Not That Into You” make the best-seller lists, it is obvious that a man depicted like Edward (that is unapologetically, totally, and completely into you) sounds just too good not to fantasize about.

He would never forget anniversaries, he is not going to change Bella for the prettiest girl around the corner, and he doesn’t use his physical attractiveness to try and make Bella feel that she is lucky to be with him (that is merely Bella’s personal thinking). He is generous, he is not afraid to show his feelings because he fears looking unmanly or because it might leave him in a vulnerable position. It appears as though he is never going to prefer his buddies over his wife/girlfriend, and the in-laws adore Bella. In fact, he lacks any defect a modern man/boy might sport. Now, tell me if that is not tempting!

He is also highly protective, pushy, overreacts, and self loathing... but he (unlike plenty of modern men) acknowledges these traits as flaws. He does not accept them as "the way he is"; rather he works his hardest to change -- without needing Bella to yell/nag/bitch at him -- and in the end he always comes out improved and better.

This is another key point. He does not hold the idea that the work to improve the relationship is only the woman's/girl's responsibility, but he clearly feels it is his as well -- and that is a hell of a selling point on attractiveness.

Some readers have discussed their problem with the fact that Edward sometimes has a temper and tries to impose his ideas on others, as well as the fact that he appears to be too overprotective. Such behaviors are unsettling because it is not the way modern women want to be treated, neither is it the way men think we want to be treated. Thus for many readers his positive qualities are overshadowed by this behavior; behavior that could resemble (under real life circumstances and personally to some people) an abusive partner. But there is a big difference between resembling an abuser in the narrative of a story and actually being one.

Just "resembling" abusive behavior can be enough to actually trigger some people’s aversion to him, but I think there are other reasons Edward is as hated as he is loved.

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Men in particular tend to hate him.

Women are the ones that often choose the males -- if Edward really is the new standard of attractiveness, then men probably will hate him because he is beyond reach for them. Edward is described as perfect by Bella; everything he does is beautiful, everything he does is right. Even his handwriting is perfect.

Women claiming they want an Edward in their lives is unsettling for modern men because perfection is beyond human means, and it does not help that Edward is the ultimate Metrosexual (well groomed, nicely dressed, perfect skin, articulate, well read, rich), where in the same book the more normal guy (Jacob) that uses the standard ways to win the girl (supportive, being a good friend, spending time with her, finding hobbies to share and common ground) is given the boot.

Of course the vitriolic hate toward him is understandable if men think that when women lust for Edward it is because they want a perfect man. The truth is that even if Edward is described as beautiful and perfect, every woman has a more personal idea of what HER version of Edward is like.

Maybe for some it is a man that doesn’t play games, that calls when he says he will, that does not flirt, that spends time with them, or maybe takes out the trash without being asked to.

I think it is better to ask women individually what Edward symbolizes to them, rather than assume that women feel the same about everything described in the books. Bella is the one gushing over Edward on every other page, but most readers I know get tired of it after a few paragraphs and concentrate on what Edward means to them.

There is another possibility that I hope is not the majority. This is that the men who hate Edward are really the type of man that would be willing to trade their significant others for a new, hotter model if the opportunity arose. We have seen on the TV, especially lately, high profile men leaving/cheating on their wives/girlfriends with the hot nanny/model/actress/or call girl.

This means that SOME men, when they watch Megan Fox at the movie theater, may well be thinking that if they could have her instead of their partner they would trade them in the blink of an eye. So women drooling over Edward or Rob Pattinson is too unsettling for them. The idea that the women in their lives have an ideal in their minds, and that they would be willing to embrace that ideal if the opportunity arose (or worse, that it might be on their minds every time they make love) can really get into some men’s psyche -- and of course makes them hate both the object of that affection and the medium that provided it.

To those men I say: well, you deserve it. If you have "settled" for someone -- not an ideal, but your second choice -- then don’t get offended if that someone settled for you as well.

Now next episode we will deal with the dynamics of the controversial/adored couple: Bedward.